Since 2007, Father’s Day has unfortunately been just another day for me. My Stepdad past away the previous October, and since I have no children, it has pretty much been just like any other day for me, personally.
Of course, I am happy for my brother and my friends, who get to celebrate this great day with their children. It is definitely a special day.
However, it is a weird day for me. I have always wanted to be a dad, but I have not been blessed just yet. Maybe one day, right?
Father’s Day to me is about reflecting on my experiences with my stepfather, who raised me, and my real dad who I got to learn a lot about in the latter years of his life. Dad died in July of 1997, when I was still a young man.
The foundation of what I do as a sportswriter was built by both of these two men. My stepdad was a Clemson graduate, Class of 1949. He gave me my passion for college football and the Tigers when I was a kid.
My father was born and raised in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area. For those of you who know me, Dad gave me my passion for the Steelers and all things Pittsburgh. He is also responsible for me being such a big sports fan.
Both of these men shaped and molded me both personally and professionally. I see their influences in everything I do. I’m proud of that, they both made me who I am.
The first recollection of my introduction to sports came when I was about four years old. I noticed my stepdad had a ticket in his car with an orange helmet that had a tiger paw on it. I asked him what that was and he told me it was a ticket to the Clemson football game he going to that weekend. I don’t remember much about that day after that, but I still have that image and that conversation in my head today.
Considering I cover Clemson football to make a living, it is crazy to think that I was drawn to it all those years ago.
A few years later, when I was seven, I was at my dad’s house for the weekend. It was a Sunday afternoon and my dad was trying to watch the Steelers’ game. Like a lot of us at that age, I still was not really interested in sports. I knew about sports and played baseball, basketball and soccer, but I was not watching it on television.
My dad loved sports and in particular he loved the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Steelers. My dad was such a big sports fan, he even watched bowling during the summer time. That’s right, bowling! But he loved sports. He loved everything about sports.
When he was kid growing up, he was a concessions boy for the Pirates and the Steelers. He said he only did it so he could get into the games for free and watch his two favorite teams play. It is ironic that his youngest son, many years later, would get the opportunity to the same thing, but only as a sportswriter.
Getting back to that weekend when I was seven, though, my dad was trying to watch his beloved Steelers. I was running around acting like a crazy fool, somewhat like I do now, when he picked me up and sat me next to him on the couch.
My father, with his arms around me and with his deep Pittsburgh accent, said to me, “Son, that right there are the Steelers,” as he pointed to the television. “We love the Steelers. This is what we do on Sundays. We watch the Steelers.”
He held me the rest of the game, but he really did not have to. I was caught! I could not take my eyes off the game. I enjoyed watching him react to every play and then suddenly I was. It was crazy! I understood everything that was going on, even though Dad never explained the game to me. My love for football was born that day and I have been crazy about the game ever since.
Because of my stepdad, I also became a Clemson fan and loved college football as much as the NFL. In fact, I became obsessed with Clemson football and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was just nine years old when Clemson won the 1981 National Championship. I have recorded this story many times in this form, but that was the team that caused me to do what I do today.
A few years later, my stepdad took me to my first Clemson football game. I will never forget it. It was a bright sunny day. It was a noon kickoff. I remember walking out of the tunnel and seeing the green grass with the orange Tiger Paw at midfield.
Our seats were on the 50-yard line, visitor’s side, and they were 16 rows up. I could see everything perfectly. Then the best thing I had ever seen at that time happened, the Tigers touched Howard’s Rock and charged down the hill wearing their special all-orange uniforms.
I was having the time of my of life. At that time, I did not know if anything else existed in my world.
I remember looking at my stepdad to see what he was doing, and he was just looking at me and smiling. He was not even watching the Tigers. He just wanted to see me happy.
To this day, even as a sports journalist, I make sure every year on that first home game I am in my seat in the press box prior to Clemson running down the hill. For those 25 seconds or so, I stop working. I watch the Tigers charge on to Frank Howard Field and for about a minute or two, I think about my stepdad and that moment we shared together when I was a kid.
A week later, I do the same thing when the Steelers have their first game of the season. I take a few minutes and think about Daddy and that moment on the couch watching the Steelers’ game with him. I think about how thankful I am that he gave me this memory.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about both of those men. They both meant so much to me in different ways. And if was not for them, I would not be a sportswriter today.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Happy Father’s Day, Carl! I miss you both, and thank you!
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